It really wasn’t a surprise when Larry showed me the broken branch lying across the sidewalk one morning this week. The east wind had howled down the Columbia Gorge and the wind chimes on our deck clanged all night.
Of all the trees in our yard, I knew this “October Glory” maple was most vulnerable. When we chose that variety to replace the Russian olive trees in our parking strip, we anticipated graceful shape and vibrant fall color. We had spent extra time at a local nursery finding two young trees with similar size, shape and branch structure.
The nursery helper was sure he could get them in our sedan easily with the back seat folded down. Unfortunately, when he put the second tree in, top-first, he broke off six or eight inches of the growth tip.
“You broke it!” I said. “Now it’s damaged.”
“Don’t worry, it will grow other branches. It will be fine,” he replied.
I should have paid attention to my instincts, and refused to take the broken tree. But we had already paid, and didn’t want to take more time to look for another tree to match the undamaged one.
Within two years, it was obvious that the broken tree was never going to match its companion. Instead of the rounded shape, with one central “leader” branch, the broken tree grew several trunks, and developed a more linear shape.
Now, in the strong fall wind, one of the large vertical branches had snapped, and was hanging down to the ground. At first, looking up at the break, it appeared to be a healthy branch. But when Larry sawed it off and we dragged it into the back yard, I noticed that there was a significant discoloration at the branch junction, indicating unnatural separation. That slight separation made it susceptible to disease, and vulnerable to the windstorm.
Since we first planted these trees six years ago, they have been a metaphor of life for me. Even with significant brokenness in early growth, the tree was still healthy, strong and beautiful, especially in its brilliant fall color. No one else would notice the difference in the two trees; only we knew they should have had matching shape. The breakage had not kept it from being beautiful.
Jesus said, “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted… This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:7-8
All of us have broken areas in our lives; we live in a fallen world. God can redeem the brokenness, if we give it to Him. Breakage becomes a threat only if we allow separation from our Source. If we stay connected, we can have healthy, strong lives, and produce a beautiful display of His glory.